Saturday, March 17, 2012

our homestead: meet my feather babies

One of my New Year's resolutions for this year was to start a small flock of chickens and ducks. When I found out that my local farm cenex was having a deal on chicks and brooding supplies this weekend, I decided it was time to bring home my dream flock. My cenex had lots of different chicks to choose from- about 10 galvanized tubs full of three breeds each.  I decided to adopt three Khaki Campbell ducklings, two Buff Orpington chicks and three Speckled Sussex chicks. It was really hard not to bring home more, but I thought that since this is my first year with fowl, I should start with a small group. I'm still telling myself this... especially since I plan to head back to the cenex today to pick up some seeding potatoes...and there's a strong chance I'll want to go see the chicks they have again. Be good Cat, be good! 

Anyway, my current feather babies are being kept nice and cozy in the basement bathroom, away from the dangers of curious kitties or playful puppies. I'll keep them sheltered inside until they've grown their true feathers, which will probably be in about a month or a month and a half.  For their brooding home, I'm using a large, round galvanized tub with a two inch layer of white pine shavings, and I'm keeping them nice and toasty with a red heating lamp hanging over head.. I also picked up a matching red and white feeder and waterer for them from the cenex. They are currently enjoying some fancy non-GMO, soy-free, locally produced starter feed from Scratch and Peck of Bellingham. Lucky birds! I'll introduce everyone to the varieties I chose:

Khaki Campbell
I love duck eggs! Duck eggs are usually larger than chicken eggs and are delicious. They are also very good for baking and are easier to digest for folks who have issues with chicken eggs. Ducks are also comical and love slugs! I really wanted to raise my own troop of ducks this year for their eggs, so I went with the Khaki Campbells. Khaki Campbells are prolific layers (whereas other varieties of ducks might lay eggs only once in a while) and originate from Gloucestershire, England. Their eggs are large and white. My ducklings should grow to weigh about 4 pounds with streamlined bodies. I look forward to watching these three sprint around the yard, and I plan on making them a little kiddy pool swimming area. My husband wants to name our ducks "Sammy", "Davis" and "Jr" (even if they are ladies). 
Buff Orpington
My Buff Orpington chicks originate from Orpington, Kent in the UK. They are supposed to have very mellow and friendly dispositions and grow to weigh between 7 and 10 pounds. They lay medium to large sized brown eggs. They are very round and fluffy with peachy feathers and are adapted to very cold weather. Orpingtons are supposed to be more docile, which is good since I foresee building my chickens either a movable chicken tractor or a stationary, fenced outdoor enclosure, as I am still on the fence about letting them be free range all of the time (since we have lots of dogs, feral cats, coyotes and raptor birds in our area). My current plan is to let my birds run the yard when I'm out with them and the dogs are inside. We'll see if that works.

Speckled Sussex
My Speckled Sussex chicks originate from (you guessed it) Sussex, England. They are supposed to grow between 7 and 10 pounds with spotted black and white feathers. As they age, their feathers become even more marked with white and gray. Like Orpingtons, Speckled Sussex are supposed to be mellow and friendly with a curious nature. Their eggs are medium to large in size and light tan. They are also very winter hardy. 

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