Sunday, November 6, 2011

Tonight's Research - Cock or Hen?

It was not long after we moved on our homestead, that we purchased our very first little chicks. I had attempted to read and comprehend the how to's of chicken raising. Like so many other tasks, I have learned that I can garner so much more by DOING the task, than reading about it. Seeing those little peeping chicks at my local hardware/farm/garden store (run by my local mayor even lol) I knew I just had to jump in.

We started with 6 chicks.



I had no idea what I was purchasing, so I purchased 2 of each from the three varieties available. I afterwards took the time to read up on their breeds to discover their traits. Which lead me to go back and purchase 6 more of the egg laying varieties.

From their we purchased Muscovy ducks and discovered our family is allergic to duck eggs. That was NOT pleasant. But duck meat is tasty, so we decided to continue raising them for meat. Besides, they are EXCELLENT at controlling the slugs, which are so plentiful here.



We purchased a Little Giant incubator. We found a local poultry farm that sells fertile eggs to incubate. A distant relative sold us a beautiful Leahy Forced Air Incubator.



After our first batch hatched, we immediately started another. We can always tell the chickens and ducks we have hatched for ourselves vs those hatched by others. They know us. They linger longer, and come closer to us. They eat out of our hands and follow us around the yard. They may not be cuddly like kittens, but they are so soft and fluffy, so beautiful. If you are gentle, they will let you hold them and pet them.



One of the difficulties of raising our own chicks is determining their sex. I have read about and attempted the vent sexing methods. Obviously it takes a much better trained eye. I don't feel badly about that. At poultry houses and hatcheries they pay vent sexers big bucks for doing a difficult job with a low percentage of mistakes. I hope that over time, I will improve. Until then, I look at my growing chicks and try to determine, are you my future egg layer? Are you my next mama hen? Are you a strong rooster who will defend my flock? Or are you dinner?

Our first incubated hatch resulted in 4 Rhode Island Reds, and 2 Plymouth Barred Rocks. It became clear after time that 3 of the Reds were roosters, with one little, well protected hen. More on that later. :)



The Pic only shows one of the Plymouth Barred Rocks, but my 2 rocks looked the same. They both had wattles and combs. I know now, that alot of hens have these traits as well. So I googled 'Plymouth Barred Rock' and searched for those vintage chicken breed posters. I am considering getting a few of those to grace my farmstead, especially as we raise some of these unique breeds.

I found this beauty.



After looking at this I can see..... my two little chickens are boys. This doesn't necessarily mean they will be gracing our table soon. We have a batch that is just one month or so younger, and we may keep one or both depending on the number of females available. They may be put to better and more enjoyable use.

And they have proved themselves to be quite excellent protectors of their 'flock' already. On my farmstead, I also have two sweet cats. I got them for my children, who love them dearly, usually by carrying them with their legs dangling everywhere, by laying on top of them, and by squeezing them when they clearly don't want to be squeezed. And my good little furballs take it. They don't bite or scratch. They do run for all their worth when they see their chance. I am trying to instill in my children the appropriate care of their animals, but it is still a learning process.



My cats have discovered the joy of hunting. They have, most excellently, caught numerous mice since being here. For a while, it was one or two a day! But I haven't seen any for a couple of weeks now, and have noticed that my cats have been stalking these younger chicks. I was quite concerned and was in fact, standing by with some pebbles in my hand ready for the rescue.



I watched silently as the cat crept slowly closer, and closer. Then I noticed something. Calmly, and at first unnoticed, the roosters, (yes all 5 of them) surrounded that one little hen. They continued pecking and scratching and gave the cat no indication that he was seen closing in. Our little black panther, Whiskers, inched closer and then braced to pounce. And the roosters charged him! Wings out and necks bracing! The cat turned and ran away with a little squeal.

It was the funniest thing I have seen in quite a while. Nothing like a good laugh.

1 comment:

  1. This was entertaining!! lol Thanks! :) I enjoyed reading it!

    ReplyDelete

Print Friendly