Thursday 25 June 2015

Poultry in motion

Let me tell you the story about how we came to have chickens. See, we'd been thinking about getting a few backyard hens for ages, and then everything sort of fell into place: a chicken coop came up on our local freecycle page, it was a long weekend so Mr Fork could make coop repairs and build a chicken run, we had time to go to a farm and have a look around and see what was what. Despite not eating eggs myself, Mr Fork and Ellie do, and chickens are wonderful garden assistants and scrap eaters.

Mr Fork is a bit of an impulsive person. So despite me, his country raised wife, saying that perhaps it was better to do some more research, get point-of-lay chickens, or perhaps do some more investigation into breeds and preferences, he insisted that everything would work out.

As soon as he saw them he was set on silkie bantams because they were just so cute and so much smaller than full sized hens. Of course, being the thrifty sort, he also said that he would like to get day old chicks as they were much cheaper than the older point of layers. Now I've never personally raised chickens myself, but I grew up in rural farm country, so I do know that day old chicks take a fair amount of work, especially cute fluffy little purebreeds and who in their right mind gets day old chicks in winter?! Being on maternity leave still, I also knew who would be doing the care and raising of these baby chicks should we get them...
Anyway, he'd said all of this in front of Ellie, so naturally, we came home with three of the teeeeeeeniest little silky bantams I have ever seen. I think they were literally only 7-10 days old. They were promptly christened Sarah, Vanessa and Jemima (thank you Peppa Pig for your chicken naming inspiration).
The chicks lived in a box in our sunroom, with a heat lamp, fresh food and chick pellets daily, a meticulously cleaned floor and oft-refreshed bedding and plenty of interaction from the loving humans around them. Despite that, over the course of a week and a bit, all three of the teeny babies didn't make it. I suspect they were not well to start with, but certainly their size and the weather didn't help.

As we have the setup, and Ellie has been so enthusiastic about having chickens, Mr Fork was not deterred, and promptly hastened out for replacements. Now, instead of delicate bantams, we have two Rhode Island Red/White cross, and two of what I suspect are Wyandotte or Australorp cross. These are not bantams, but full sized chickens, and probably about 5 or 6 weeks old now.
Ellis has named them Sarah (again), Jemima (again), Vanessa (again) and Neville, as that was also a Peppa Pig chicken name. Despite my suggestion that Neville was a boy's name and we (hopefully) have female chickens, she insisted. I compromised and Neville is now pronounced as Nev-ill-ay. I realise that this is not a particularly good name for an egg chicken (Never-lay anyone?). 

They will be living indoors with a heat lamp for some time more until they are bigger and hardy enough to relocate to their outdoor accommodation on a permanent basis (they do get supervised outdoor time at the moment too).
Any tips or tricks you can offer about raising tiny chickens and keeping them healthy and alive will be accepted with gratitude.


  1. love the peppa pig naming - especially neville - I don't have chooks and so my only advice would be from my childhood (don't fill your chookhouse with so much scraps that you have to wear gumboots to go in there) and my mum's current chooks (keep the dog well away if you have one). Good luck with them - I did hear a guy talking about an online resource for keeping them but I regret that I can't remember the name of it - it sounded interesting

    1. Hahaha my children have been very enthusiastic feeding with the vegetable scraps, so your gumboot tip is very timely! We do have a dog - two actually - but in the end, the chickens will end up bigger than them both! At the moment, while the chickens are small and fluffy, the hounds seem to treat them as little mini puppies; they are curious but not aggressive. Hopefully it will stay like that... :)

  2. Never-lay -- that's the best chook name I've ever come across. Yay for Peppa Pig.



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