If you read this month’s newsletter when it came out on Friday morning, you’ll know that we have three sweet little new additions to Cloverhill. They’re a week old today and we’re still working on names. They are two Black Star chicks and one Barred Rock. (Not getting the newsletter yet? Subscribe in the sidebar or at the end of this post! It goes out the first Friday of every month.)
We always knew we’d get more chickens someday to add to our flock. Our first group of Red Star chickens have started to lay less eggs which isn’t uncommon and by adding to the flock every few years we should keep production up. I’ll still be home this summer on extended maternity leave, which made it a good time to get them. I can keep an eye on them during the day while they’re in the house right now and then move let them outside most of the day when the weather gets warmer. We want to make sure they’re safely integrated with the rest of the chickens for a smooth transition. Apparently, the phrase “henpecked” is a real thing and we want to limit any squabbles amongst our girls.
It’s almost two years since my family surprised us with our first five chicks for my 30th birthday. It was the first day after we’d moved out to the country and what a welcome to rural life! It was something that we’d talked about doing once we found out we were heading to the country and they just happily nudged us in the right direction.
Our first summer at the farmhouse, we watched the chicks grow every day as we worked outside on the exterior restoration. We were supposed to have five hens, but quickly learned that we had a rooster amongst us.
As a part of the gift, my family designed and built us the most adorable Chicken Coop (part 1 and part 2). We built a large fenced-in enclosure for them to free range during the day and took extra measures to keep them warm in the winter.
By that first fall, the girls were finally laying eggs.
They’re the sweetest, most docile creatures and we just love them to bits. They give us eggs and in return we give them table scrap treats. Corn-on-the-cob and watermelon are among their favourites. (I even made an egg collection apron to collect eggs.)
Another reason why we decided to get more chickens is that we’ll be having a vacancy soon. Over time our big beautiful rooster Henry has become very aggressive. He’s twice as big as that picture now and you would never find me or the dogs in there anymore. Only Garrett can get in there safely to put him away. I have to lure him into the coop with food if I need to get into the pen to put the girls away.
We often have kids come to visit and now that Lucy will be walking soon, it’s too risky to keep him around. It breaks my heart to see him go, but thankfully he’ll be heading to another home soon. He was a happy accident (they were all supposed to be hens!) and I’ll miss hearing his happy crows every morning, but it’s for the best.
As for our new chicks, they’re adapting well to their new home. It’s too cold for outdoor adventures, but I’ve let them explore around the house a few times. They’re curious little things! (This picture looks like they’re on the edge of a table but they’re really on the original wood floor of our upstairs hallway. Baby chicks are experts had trying to leap out of hands, so we always keep them close to the floor to prevent any mishaps.)
I realize that this is the fourth year in a row that we’ve had spring babies. In 2014, we adopted Cola (who we later found out was only 5 months old), then in 2015 we got the first chicks. 2016 brought our own baby girl, Lucy, and now we’ve got another group of chicks for 2017. What will 2018 bring – baby goats?? (A constant joke from my brother who taunts me that he’ll buy me a goat for my birthday this year).
We’re testing out a new-to-us brooder method this year and so far it’s working well. I love coming down to see them in the morning, cuddled up under the cozy warm glow of the heat lamp. I wouldn’t mind being under one of those myself some days!
On a final note, I realize that seeing all these cute pictures of spring chicks everywhere will lead many people to buy them for their kids as Easter gifts. While I love this cute fluffy stage of chicken keeping, these girls are going to grow awful quickly and then they’ll be out in the coop to lay eggs. They can live for 10 years and we hope to let them live out their days here. When people buy them as Easter gifts, they often forget about this. Every year, animal shelters have chickens and bunnies who get dumped when the reality of taking care of them kicks in. Like any pet, it’s a big decision to take them into your home and give them the best life you can. Chocolate bunnies and stuffed toy baby chicks make great alternatives 🙂