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ANOTHER DAY IN THE COUNTRY: Quiver Full of Feathers

© Another Day in the Country

It is such a miracle to watch chicks grow. They are like corn growing in the field. You can almost measure the change in inches from one day until the next.

This is why I set up “viewing chairs” in my massage room while the chicks were inside the house during that cold snap. We didn’t want to miss their rapid transition from down to feathers. Watching baby chickens grow was a lot more fun than watching the evening news.

I planned this smaller batch of chicks like a responsible newlywed doing family planning, considering the best season for getting chicks, the genetics of these chicks, and the time of their arrival. I was like a one-woman adoption center.

For sure I knew that I wanted part of the flock to be Americana chicks that lay colored eggs. Then I wanted Polish topknots because they are such bright, inquisitive chicks, and then I wanted to try something I’d never had before like Lakenvelders — an old rare breed from Holland. This box of chicks was going to be something old, something new and something blue.

The first time that I ordered baby chicks from a catalog I was crazy enough to opt for a grab bag of baby chicks, guaranteed to contain a wide variety of ethnic origins. I figured this would be a great way to begin my chicken-rearing experience. They were cute as a bug’s ear, and since we didn’t know exactly what we’d gotten, it was a continuing puzzle looking at the catalog and attempting to identify our mixed flock. We had all shapes and sizes of chickens.

We had some Brahma chicks, growing like mad, huge hens that towered over the others. Luckily, they were pretty docile and even tempered.

We had a couple of topknots that were deviled endlessly by the other chicks because of those interesting long feathers sprouting on the top of their heads. I don’t know that those topknots ever had their elegant hair-dos unsullied.

We had slim, nervous hens, and of course lots and lots of elegant roosters because I’d neglected to insist on my current “girls only” policy.

Even though I learned on my next batch of chicks, several years later, to specify pullets, I could never resist that company’s offer of a “mystery chick” that they would throw in for free. I love surprises so I’d always check the box that said, “send.” You would know that they were always roosters, but I had some absolutely lovely roosters over the years, good guys who kept the chicken house running smoothly.

We only had one bad egg, so to speak, (after my first rooster fiasco) and when he wanted to do battle all the time with my sister we managed to give him away.

This time, I tried a new company — mostly because they had at least three of the chicken breeds that I wanted hatching during the same time period. They didn’t offer a mystery chick, but I figured they’d probably make at least one mistake sexing those chicks and I’d still find myself with a young rooster. I don’t mind one! It’s the multitude that is daunting. Too much testosterone in the chick community and there’s trouble brewing.

My only trouble this time had to do with how long it took the chicks to arrive at the Post Office — they were in transit an extra day, even with the closer location, and because of this I lost three of my little topknots, my most precious acquisition, right off the bat.

But the remaining 13 chicks have done fine. The blue egg layers in this catalog were just listed as “Easter Egg Chicks” bred for the egg color and not the specific breed. They are my “Duke’s Mixture” this time around, bigger than the other medium sized breeds I ordered. They certainly aren’t as bright as the others and seem more shy getting out of the house and exploring the world inside the chicken pen.

The Polish topknots are the brightest and most fun to watch. They are inquisitive, bright eyed, adventurous, the first out the door and the most secure. So far, their headdresses have been left alone and they look like little Egyptian queens with their plumes all aquiver.

The chicks already look like adults, and quite quickly I discovered that my Lakenvelder chicks, weren’t. A Lakenvelder is a Dutch chicken with black head and tail feathers and a white body. What I think I got instead are Barred Rock — yes, you can tell the colors are the same but VERY different feather formation.

It’s okay. I’m going to tell the company, maybe send them a picture, and hopefully we can try those Dutch imports at a later date.

Meanwhile all is quiet in the hen house — not a soul has tried to crow, and I’m looking forward to a peaceable kingdom on another day in the country.

Last modified May 12, 2016

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