Yesterday the baby Ameraucana chicks left the brooder boxes in our upstairs bathroom and went out into the big world. I set up a nine square foot pen for them on the lawn so they could enjoy the warm, sunny day and the fresh grass.
When the babies first landed on the grass and had a glimpse at the immensity of what lay beyond the cardboard walls they had known since hatching, they were stunned. They hunkered together in a bunch, not saying a peep, just staring. One little rooster lay exactly where he landed with both wings spread wide, not daring to move. I had to coax him over to his siblings.
Some encouraging clucks from mother hen (me) and a few minutes spent watching for predators gave the little chicks enough assurance to begin exploring. Soon they were eating snips of grass, scratching at the ground, and one even found a bug. It ran around peeping loudly with the catch in its beak and several chicks following to see what the excitement was about. A benevolent white bunny watched from a nearby cage.
Soon the freedom became intoxicating and chicks started to spread their wings. They flew about the enclosure. This is a sign they have become comfortable with the surroundings.
Everyone had a good look around, then a bite of chick food and a drink. The sun was so warm and inviting that soon it was naptime. All twenty-one little birds spread out in a patch of sunshine for a good sleep. Afterward, the babies took up their new residence in the barn.
The chick hatch is completed and there are twenty-three Ameraucana babies. Three are not doing too well and may not survive. Still, I’m very pleased with the result, a great hatch for me. Many more would be too much at once!
The little ones are now one to two days old. The photo was taken this morning. All are bright-eyed and active. They are starting to eat and spend lots of time sleeping under the brooder light. Before too long they will be running around in the barnyard.
Today I set the eggs for the second hatch. If all goes well, more babies will be popping out in twenty-one days!
Update 5/9/15: I miscounted, there were actually 24 hatchlings. Unfortunately 2 or 3 were not very strong and one has passed away. The others are holding their own at the moment. It is normal for some newborn chicks to not survive. The rest are all very healthy right now and eating like tiny horses.
Here are their parents, silvers, black, wheatens and blue wheatens.
Silver rooster with silver hens
Wheaten and blue wheaten roosters with wheaten hens
At our place, Phoenix Farm, I raise purebred Ameraucana full sized chickens. I keep four colors at this time, blue wheaten, brown red, silver and buff. These birds are known for their unusual blue colored eggshells. I have been breeding the birds for nearly twenty years and have achieved a pretty medium blue-green egg shell with some more greenish and some more blue.
The chickens are so much fun to watch free-ranging around the yard. They have very distinct personalities. Because Ameraucanas do not set very well, I have to hatch the birds with incubators. Every spring I have at least 3 hatches or about 45-60 babies running around. The chicks think I’m their mother and sometimes follow me around. I talk to them in chicken language. They are very friendly and colorful birds.
They help to pay for their grain by giving us lots of delicious eggs, some for us and some for sale. I also blow out the insides of the best colored eggs and sell the shells. I sell chicks and adult birds and also feathers that I collect during the year as they are naturally shed. I used to slaughter some of the roosters and sell their hackles but prefer not to. It makes me happier to sell them to good homes with hens, even if I have to keep some roosters over the winter for spring sale. They are mostly very calm roosters so they live together well in the barn.
Once in awhile we get a predator like a fox or hawk. I use netting to protect the birds in their pens but when they free-range, they are on their own. I think if you asked them, they prefer to take their chances being free than cooped up all day. They love to eat bugs and scratch for tidbits. On a hot summer day you can find ten or twelve of them sunbathing and dusting themselves in the middle of the barnyard. It’s a wonderful life for a chicken at Phoenix Farm. You can tell by the delicious healthy quality of their eggs that my chickens are in excellent condition and very happy.