Pippi and Bullseye explore their new home.
I can’t believe it’s been a whole month since the peeps came into our home. It took months of planning and preparation, trips to the hardware store, scavenging Craigslist, and talking endlessly to our friends and family about “getting chickens.”
Well … the chickens are here. And they have pretty much taken over.
Matt, always on the ball, built our peeps-to-be a fine brooding box in the days before their arrival.
The brooding box, all ready for chicks on the morning of their arrival.
He was very proud of his box with a fine linoleum floor, edges carefully sealed with caulk, and a nifty heat lamp and thermometer to ensure the chicks’ comfort and good health in their new home.
We were really excited about the arrival. We had ordered six from the local seed and feed in the weeks before that included a variety of breeds promising to be “good layers” and “friendly.” We wanted different colors and personality types to ensure a lively and productive flock. We thought we had planned everything perfectly. However, there is a certain degree of unpredictability in such small-scale livestock endeavors. Several days before our order was to come in, Matt received a voice mail message from Densons saying that there had been “hatching problems.” They offered no further details on the matter, so we were left to concoct our own hypotheses. Were we out of luck entirely? Would they just come late? Were they sick?
When we arrived on April 5, ready to pick up our new feathered family members, we found there was nothing too dire about our situation. Some of the breeds we had ordered were understocked so we would have to settle for either replacement chicks or a refund. We were eager to get started and wanted all of the chicks to be the same age, so we opted to take the replacement choices which meant no Speckled Sussex and no Plymouth Rock. Instead we ended up with two Golden New Hampshires, an apparently “dual purpose” breed they had in great abundance.
“They’re larger than your other breeds,” we were warned. “They’re made for eating and eggs.” A couple of weeks on, the difference is obvious, but we’ll get to that momentarily.
Adorable, fuzzy peeps on the car ride to their new home.
When we got the girls home and placed them in their fancy new brooder box, they took immediately to doing what chicks do best: being cute. We dipped each of their beaks in the water and then, let them alone for a few hours to settle into their new environment.
Wanting our chicks to be friendly and good around humans, we resolved to hold them for a little while everyday. Not a difficult task considering how freakin’ cute they were. They chirped and peeped straight into our hearts. We named our first six Gloria, Pippi, Jamie, Bullseye, Ellen, and Feste.
The next day, I went off to work and got a text from Matt. He couldn’t help himself. He had gone to another feed store and come home with two more chicks. In an attempt to replace the breeds we couldn’t get from Densons, he purchased a Barred Rock and Silver-Laced Wyandotte. We were out of luck for the Sussex- maybe next year! Our little flock was up to eight and the clever little names continued. The next day, I took their first official chick portraits.
Jane came from the second round of peeps. A little plain in color, I decided to name her because she was rather a “Plain Jane” lacking the stripes or speckles the other chicks had.
Bea the peep (later her name was changed to Athena).
Athena the peep actually started out as “Bea.” A Silver Laced Wyandotte, I thought it would be funny to named her after silver-laced theatre icon Bea Arthur. It worked for a day or so, but Matt wasn’t convinced. I suggested “Athena” after the grey-eyed Greek goddess. It seemed to suit her better.
Gloria a.k.a. “Gary.”
Gloria is a complicated case. Even before we talked seriously about the chickens, Matt liked the idea of having a chicken named Gloria after the chicken in the movie Milo and Otis. It seemed like a fitting name for a chicken and this plump, yellow peep seemed like the perfect choice to carry the mantle. As the days and weeks have wore on, however, it seems we shouldn’t get too attached to Gloria as she/he may actually be “Gary.” Whether we want to or not, we can’t keep a rooster in the city so, if Gloria turns out to develop more rooster-like features, his destiny will have to lie elsewhere. Really, at this point, we’re basing our assumptions on the fact that “Gary” is enormous. Twice the size of his/her sisters with toes as thick as my fingers. He’s as big and plump as chickens I’ve bought at the supermarket. It makes me sad, as he’s quite friendly and sweet. He’s easy to hold and curls up on your lap like a cat … I mean, he’s pretty much the size of a cat. And there are still four weeks to go before they can move outside. I’m crossing my fingers that he will remain a hen, a very large hen.
We named our Rhode Island Red Jamie the Ginger after our ginger friend Jamie the Human. Like Jamie, she is friendly and always ready to play. She is a beautiful little bird who enjoys sitting on my lap and being stroked under the chin. She may be the prettiest peep of all.
Ellen is a sad story. She came in our original flock. Pretty and delicate, she seemed like a dainty and lovely little addition. But, tragedy struck on Easter Sunday when we found Ellen laying on the floor of the brooder box. She was just laying in a strange and unnatural way, still breathing, but obviously not right. On further inspection, we thought she might have a pasted vent, so we carefully attempted to clean off her bottom with a damp paper towel. No use. We didn’t know what to do. Maybe she was thirsty. We tried dipping her beak in the water dish and letting her sit beside it. It didn’t matter. We watched her shudder and die right there in the box. Perhaps injured and dehydrated, it’s impossible to tell for sure. It all happened so quickly, in a matter of ten minutes or so from the time we found her. I buried her in the planter box in the front yard in a tiny Band-Aid box coffin with a popsicle stick grave marker. Poor, sweet Ellen.
Pippi is the same breed as “Gary” and really our first indicator that something may be amiss with Gloria’s “hen-ness.” Pippi’s coloring is different and she’s tiny compared to her “sister.” She has began to show lovely amber patches and a feisty and adventurous personality. I decided to name her “Pippi” after Pippi Longstocking, the adorable and adventurous ginger heroine of childrens’ fiction. Pippi’s a character. She has inquisitive inky black eyes and a thirst for life outside the brooder box. I’m really excited to see the shenanigans she gets into in the yard.
Named for the bulls eye pattern around her eyes, she is the smallest in our flock, but perky and sweet nonetheless. Matt excitedly named her first. Even in her earliest molting stage, she’s still a cutie.
Feste was the first one I held and the first one I named. She was always just one chilled out chick. Her laid-back but playful personality reminded me of the character Feste from Twelfth Night, so the name just seemed natural. I probably shouldn’t have favorites, but … what can you do?
The flock, about a month old.
It’s been nearly a month since the peeps came into our home and they have grown and grown! Especially “Gary.” They have been fun and relatively easy thus far.
Matt and my dad put in some hard work on the coop last weekend. It’s looking really good. I think it will be quite the luxury coop when we’re all finished. Tomorrow is coop painting day, so I’ll be sure and take pictures to add to the albums.
It’s going well. The peeps are happy and healthy. They are very friendly and don’t smell up the house (all that much). I’m really looking forward to seeing them scratch for worms out in the gravel.
We’ve really made some efforts in this chick-raising endeavor to become more careful and conscious. We bought a composter to do something with all the soiled pine shavings. That, of course, eventually means compost and hopefully I can break the curse of my “black thumb” and grow a garden.
It’s definitely been an exciting time. Besieged with work responsibilities (teaching, directing, and designing) I feel a little guilty that I haven’t been able to devote as much time as I would have wanted to the early-chick rearing. But there is always plenty to do.