I’ve been researching chicks for a while now because I plan to turn my yard into an urban homestead and the City of Traverse City just changed the ordiance banning chickens. City residents can now keep four hens but no roosters in town. There are lots of places online that you can find information about urban chickens and a few where you can actually order chicks. I have been on http://www.mypetchicken.com/ over and over again trying to pick out my chicks and was all set to place my order. They guarantee the sex of their chicks with 90% accuaracy so I was pretty confident and added a Dominique, an Easter Egger, a Golden-Laced Wyandotte and a Buff Orpington to my cart. All four chicks came to $14.35 which I thought was pretty resonable considering the price included a fifty-cent surchage on each chick to make sure they were girls and the Marek’s vaccine on all four. I proceeded to checkout. Imagine my surprise when my fourteen dollar chickens had a $34.95 shipping fee!!
Adam and I stopped at a farm supply store but they didn’t have any chicks left. I decided I’d probably end up waiting until spring when the feed stores started getting chicks in again before starting my chicken adventures.
Until . . . Stephanie E-mailed me and invited me on a road trip to an animal show.
So Dylan and I got up early yesterday morning and rode the two-and-a-half hours out to Whittemore, MI with Stephanie and her kids. We were expecting a big, indoor farm and garden-type show. Imagine our surprise when we pulled into what looked like a VFW Hall’s field to find about ten parked cars and trucks with cages lined up in front of them. The kids jumped out of the car and started running from booth to booth. Right away Dylan gravitated to a vendor with about four cages full of rats. They were so cute (and cheap) that I almost came home with a baby rat.
The new pet that almost was.
It was so small that you can barely see it in Dylan’s hands. Fortunately he was soon distracted by all the other farmyard fauna.
There were cages filled with turkeys, guinea fowl, roosters, hens, turkens, a pregnant pot-bellied-pig, bunnies, geese, homing pigeons, quail chicks, chicks and goats.
We wandered back and forth through the booths, talked to the vendors and pet the animals. I was looking for chicks and I soon found them.
The family that organized the animal show had the first booth inside the “gate” and they had all kinds of poultry and two even tinier rats than the one Dylan tried to bring home with us. Sitting on the grass were boxes filled with chicken and quail chicks. One box had two-week-old Rhode Island Red chicks and two-week-old Bantam chicks in it and another had four-week-old buffs and a four-week-old Rhode Island Red. I asked the guy if he could sex the chicks for me.
The chicks packed up for the road.
He explained that it was really hard at this age and he couldn’t make any guarantees but he looked at the chicks side-by side and did his best to help me pick out two Rhode Island Red chicks and two buff chicks that were “probably” pullets. My cost: ten dollars. Chase got chicks too. He picked out two little black bantam chicks and we added them to my box.
We talked to the guy that sold us the chicks for a long time about his homing pigeons because Kylie wanted pigeons. They were really beautiful and were only $20 a pair. We decided we should check out the other vendors so I carried the chicks around in their box while we looked at the rest of the animals.
The kids really liked the pregnant pig, but we spent most of the rest of our time at the goat booth. When I got there, Kylie was bottle feeding an adorable baby pygmy goat. She passed the bottle to Dylan and he finished feeding the goat.
Everyone wanted a turn.
Dylan finished feeding the bottle to the goat while we talked to the man that owned the goats and his daughter. She showed us all their other animals and he discussed his “baby goat formula”. I asked the man how much the goat was. When he told us $100, Stephanie said that she wished she had stopped at the bank because she would buy him.
Bottle feeding the baby goat.
After our other purchases, I had $30 left, Chase had $40 and Steph had $20. I asked the man if he would take $90 for him. His daughter ran over and whispered that he should sell him to us. So Kylie got a new pygmy goat to show at the fair next year and the Becker-Margerison clan added a fifth goat to their herd.
After the purchase of the goat, there wasn’t enough cash on hand to get the pigeons but I don’t think Kylie was upset since she had the brand-new-baby goat to bring home with her.
So what do you do with a baby goat when you drive to the animal show in a four-door hybrid car?? Ride home with a goat in your back seat and a box of chickens in your lap.
Chase and Dylan in the backseat with the baby goat and a chick
The kids didn’t mind the livestock in their laps until the goat decided to do his business all over Kylie’s lap. Dylan was the only one who got out of the ride unscathed as two different chicks left droppings on Chase. When we bought the goat, his name was Hotshot, so the kids brainstormed new names on the ride back. They came up with quite a list but Kylie finally settled on “Mario”. That way, if she gets another boy she can name it Luigi and if she gets a girl she can call her Peach. Plus, Stephanie decided that Mario looked a little Italian anyway.
We finally made it home with all the animals and moved the chicks into the yard so they could scratch and got them some water. I decided a while ago that all my chicks would have food names because eventually they will probably all be dinner. So. . . (drumroll please) meet the girls.
Clockwise from the top: Cordon Bleu, Fried Rice, Cacciatore and Parmesan.
The kids don’t like them having food names, but they know that if any of them are roosters we have to get rid of them and that eventually they will stop laying eggs and we will need to replace them. So, we’re calling them Bleu, Rice, Catchy and Parma. Still a little food-y, but the kids seem okay with the nicknames.
Now for the closeups.
Parmesan is the more well-groomed of the two buffs. She’s molted more of her down and looks smoother because she has more of her “big girl” feathers. Parmesan doesn’t mind being held.
Bleu didn't want to hold still for her closeup.
Chicken Cordon Bleu is the bossiest of the four girls. I think she’s going to wind up on top of the “pecking order”. Bleu usually ends up with the worms or grubs and tries to take them away if the other girls get there first.
Rice is Gwen's favorite.
Chicken Fried Rice doesn’t mind being held either. She’s the more outgoing of the two Rhode Island Reds. Reds aren’t as cold hardy as some of the other chicken breeds because they have larger combs that are more susceptible to frostbite so I hope the girls do well through the winter.
- The shy chick.
Chicken Cacciatore is the most shy. She’s really pretty though. You can tell her from Fried Rice because she has a stripe down the top of her head like a mohawk.
So the girls spend afternoons when we’re around to monitor them in this little run. It’s actually the top of an old guinea pig cage. In the evening or if it’s cold out, the girls come inside in their “brooder” It’s actually the whole guine pig cage with a lamp added in for heat. I love repurposed stuff. For now the little brooder cage will work, but the girls will get big fast. If you’d like to check out the evolution of a chicken from chick to lady, check out: http://3chixaday.blogspot.com/. It’s a photojournal of three chicks growing into henhood.
- The girls in their upcycled guinea pig cage.
The girls love to scratch in the dirt and look for ants and bugs. They’re really funny to watch when they actually find something. I think I’m going to really enjoy these chickens. (Especially when they start fixing me breakfast.)
Now we just need to start on a coop. My wonderful hubby has been mulling over the designs I show him. Considering his trade, I’m pretty sure the coop will be deluxe. What I have in mind is something like what you can find here: http://occasionalchicken.blogspot.com/
. I’ll keep you posted (as my schedule allows) with the coop progress.