On the darkest day of the year…

The indominable Miss Kitty

…a person’s interest turns to: Chickens! (Of course) Here’s the thing, I’m down to two very geriatric chickens, and I need to refresh my flock this spring. Now, you and I could just wait around and see what the feed store brings us during the chick season, or we could, if we work together, pick out some really cool and productive breeds and do a group order. I am doing this out of the very, very goodness of my heart, as this project will no doubt turn into a logistical nightmare; I am certain -CERTAIN- that I will end up kicking myself a thousand times for making this offer. However, after spending hours researching the strengths and weaknesses of the different breeds it would be a shame for me to just quietly order my three chicks through the mail without sharing my knowledge and the freight bill with my stalwart fans. Plus, chicks travel better in a group due to the massed body heat, so really we are doing the birds a favor by “car pooling”.

Imagine getting a set of chicks with The Real Garden seal of approval stamped on their butt! Not to mention the fact that anyone who gets in on this will have yours truly on the hook 24/7 for advice and counseling (“they aren’t dead, they are sleeping” and other pearls of wisdom).

So here’s what I’m thinking: Most of the good hatcheries have a minimum order of 25 chicks. The chicks come in the mail immediately after hatching, because the chicks are absorbing the yolk sac for the first 72 hours and don’t need food or water during that time. So for this to work, anyone who signs up needs to have their brooding box set up and running, and be prepared to pick up their chicks on the day they come in. The price range is around 3-5 dollars per chick, depending on breed, plus shipping, etc. I am not doing this to make any money (I am certain -CERTAIN- to loose a few bucks on this), so everyone pays exactly what their chicks cost plus an even split for shipping.

I need three chicks, so I need people to speak up for another 22 chicks. Once we fill the minimum order, we can order more with no problem.

I’ lusting after the following breeds: Norwegian Jaerhorn, link 1, link 2, link 3. Some kind of Leghorn, either light brown or Exchequer. Miss Kitty has taught me to go for a Buff or Red Sex-Link, or maybe one of these “Gold Comet” production models. Rhode Island Reds (or Production Reds)and Barred Rocks are certainly classics for the backyard chickeneer, and my friend’s Welsummer has charmed me. So many choices. Basically, I am going for sheer productively this time around. White egg, brown egg, pretty bird, plain bird, I don’t care. I am looking for the hens that can produce that mythical 300 eggs a year without artificial lighting. Naturally, you can order what ever is available.

So this project is “hatched”, ha ha. Let me know if you are interested. Maybe people could leave comments on what kind of chickens they would like to have and why. I’d like to get a jump of the season and order for a March 1st-ish delivery.

Happy Solstice Everyone! Get your seeds (and chickens) ordered!

J

Back in the day...

9 comments to On the darkest day of the year…

  • Kurt

    I will miss seeing Miss Kitty pecking at her greens at the beginning of each show.

    You do often remind us that chickens are super light sensitive. Wow. Way to jump on the winter solstice train Dear Kitty!

    Such a beautiful flock on that last photo.

    • Jason Moorehead

      Hey Kurt, don’t misunderstand, Miss Kitty is on the full retirement package. I’m going to get three MORE chickens, and the two grannies can teach them what’s what. I really didn’t think Kitty was going to make it through the summer, and here we are at the end of the year and she actually has been looking kind of spry in a decrepit sort of way. Hell, maybe she’ll kick out an egg or two next year!

      The last picture was my full flock in their prime. They are, I think, about two and three years old in that shot, all in full spring lay, nice red faces and shiny feathers. Ah, youth.

      J

  • Kurt

    Jason,

    That’s good to hear. Here’s to decrepit spryness then. Hehe.

    That last photo looks photoshopped. Not a feather out of place.

    Looking forward to seeing the new chicks in the spring.

  • Mark

    Hey Jason

    What outstanding offer! I like Buff Orpington and Plymouth Rocks. Do you know how chickens do with dogs? That’s my wifes big concern. I told her that my childhood experience was that if the dogs knew the creatures were part of the family, then things were peaceful. Should we buy extras just incase of roosters?

    mark

    • Jason Moorehead

      It all depends on the dog. We dog sit and have dog visitors, and here’s what I’ve noticed. I find that the most domesticated breeds, the dogs that look the least like the wild canids, don’t even seem to notice the chickens, (golden retriever, the Rhodesian ridge back), and the chickens themselves don’t seem to pick up on these dogs as a predator. My sister’s border collie is in a gray area: the dog is very intent on the chickens. This dog might want to herd the chickens, or it might want to eat the chickens, I don’t know and I’m not going to find out. My other sister’s Sheba Inu is a definite “I want to eat the chickens” situation, or maybe she merely wants to kill for sport, again, we are not going to find out which. The chickens definitely pick up on this dog as a predator, even from across the yard. I would recommend supervision/fencing until you are confident of the dog/chicken relationship.

      We would order sexed chicks, hopefully all female. However, you are correct that this is not a perfect science, and this is one of the headaches that I am CERTAIN to encounter with this project. I will probably end up ordering a couple extras. So Mark, how many do you want? Anyone? You better speak up before I give a big sigh of relief and close this offer!

      J

  • Mark

    I have to admit that I have 4 American Eskimo Dogs which are Spitz type like your sister’s. They are pretty high energy, but fairly obedient if I’m supervising them. I have to research this more to avoid a really dissapointing problem.

    mark

    • Jason Moorehead

      Not all dogs with the curly tail are as crazy/undomesticated as the Sheba Inu. Shebas were bred for small game hunting, not pulling, and I’m convinced that the hunters probably have to literally whip obedience into the little beasts. I had a Samoyed mutt as a kid, very spunky, a little head strong, total sled dog mentality, but I could work with the dog. I showed her a guinea pig once, and she immediately nipped a tuft of fur off its butt. Fur flying, panicked cavy, dog chastised, people chastened. After that, the dog seemed to know the rules. A few years later she had a marvelous time playing tag in the back yard with my yearling goat and a New Zealand Giant rabbit. Never a problem.

      If your dogs are “on the cusp” of being chicken friendly, I suggest you look for chicken breeds that are described as “flighty”- they mean that literally, as in “prone to flight” rather than scatterbrained. If the hens can get up over a fence rail, the dogs will be at the disadvantage.

      So, how many can I put you down for?

      J

  • In case you’re interested, if you do in fact keep your hens into retirement and let them age instead of culling them, there are so many rescued hens in Seattle that need safe forever homes. The Bird & Exotic clinic, for one, has hens surrendered to them nearly every other week by people who have let them get attacked by predators and then cannot afford care. The Seattle Animal Shelter also often has hens who end up there after flying the coop. I have two very young hens from situations like this, both great egg-layers and thriving. One was only 3-months-old when attacked by a raccoon, so she laid her very first egg AFTER being discarded at the vet for euthanasia. Just an option to keep in mind.

    • Jason Moorehead

      “If you do in fact keep hens into retirement…”? What the hell? Is there any doubt? How many people you know who have a nine and a ten year old chicken? I’ll ask you not to get too holy around here, and don’t get me started on that damn clinic either, and how people “dump” a chicken with them because they can’t afford care. I have a very interesting story from the chicken owner’s perspective concerning said clinic, but I’m not going to get into it here. Anyway, by all means people, go save those chickens and give them a good home! They make great pets whether they are laying or not.

      So Tiffany, if you don’t eat animal products, what do you do with the eggs from those layers? I hope you’ve found some deserving omnivores to whom you can donate the perfect protein. (You can send a dozen my way, if you like).

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