Growing our flock

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With one older lady of a bantam and a grumpy, broody Silkie freeloader in residence, we’ve not been getting much in the way of chicken eggs recently (quail eggs are another matter) so we have had some openings for chickens that will actually lay.

They are a few options when buying chickens and one of the more expensive is to buy what are called “Point of Lay” (POL) hens.  The reasons for this are both obvious and understandable – after all, said hens will be 18 weeks (plus) old and the seller will be taking into account the time, effort and feeding involved in raising the hens to this point.  Hybrid hens will be cheaper, but we have been interested in keeping a few breeds and seeing how we get on with them and prices can be quite a bit more expensive (and that price rises for adult birds from “good” lines).  So we took a cheaper route and bought chicks that were less than a week old.  NB: it is also possible to buy fertile eggs and hatch them either under a broody hen or in an incubator – but our regular broody had been broody on nothing for quite a while, so I wasn’t sure she would either still be broody by the time we’d had some eggs delivered, or sit on the eggs long enough as she had already been sitting for ages.

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We bought seven chicks, sadly one died within days, but the rest continued to grow at a fast rate.    By about 6 weeks (and with pleasant warm temperatures) they no longer needed added heat (we used a heating plate to brood them in place of a mother hen they could sit beneath) and started to move outside to meet the resident older girls.

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First trip onto the grass and they’re still so very tiny and a tad fluffy still.

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However, a few weeks later they are looking so much bigger and it’s pretty clear that we have three cockerels.  From front to back: Rhode Island Red (female), Light Sussex (male), Black Pekin (male), Silver Laced Wyandotte (pretty much hiding and probably male) and at the back a Light Sussex female (clearly showing the difference between her and the other Light Sussex).

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Rather happy that these two are very likely girls (as they’re both absolute dears).  The are a Rhode Island Red (at the rear) and a Lavender Pekin (she is so much smaller because she is a bantam).

The chicks were then moved to a separate outdoor coop with covered run so that the resident girls could start to get used to them, until, more recently they are allowed out to explore the main run under strict supervision: they are vulnerable to passing cats and sparrow hawks – the older hens aren’t particularly bothered with them, although they occasionally give them a warning peck and the little black pekin came under a mini beating this morning for trying to nick the old girl’s treat – she very quickly put him in his place!

They absolutely love having a good run around and forage in the hedgerow and it gives them a chance to dustbath in the sun and watch the older hens and learn more of their chicken ways.

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The next step will be to introduce them all (old and young) into a new (to us) larger coop (that currently needs work to fix and spruce it up as we bought it secondhand) and hopefully their “new” additional covered run (we’re converting our old shed – but they’ll still have access to the outside grass run when we’re around and the weather is fair).  Hopefully I’ll have pictures of the new housing soon!

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