Meet the Babies

I was originally planning on writing an entry about my chick choices prior to delivery, but again, I was surprised by their arrival this morning. So, I’ll give you a quick run down right now.

I have to admit that I have drooled over the online chick catalogs for years now. Silly, I know. But they all seem so exciting and exotic that it’s hard for me to not want a few of EVERY kind. I am my father’s daughter. There are large and bantam (small) sizes of most breeds with a few “giants” (which are particularly huge and have no bantam equivalent) and a few “true bantams,” which only come in the small size. There are fat ones and skinny ones, ruffled (called “frizzled”) ones, silky ones, crested ones, feather-footed ones, and ones with super long tail feathers. There are mean ones, wild ones, tame ones, comical ones. There are bad layers, ok layers, good layers and great layers. They lay brown eggs, blue eggs, white eggs, green eggs, pink eggs, and the mysterious “tinted eggs.” Every place I’ve looked in all of my research talks about birds that lay “tinted” eggs. I still have not found one definition of “tinted.” I take it to mean, simply, “not white.” But, when a bird lays, brown or blue/green eggs, it is specified. I have no clue what “tinted” means. If anyone knows, please share!

Anyway, my first instincts are to dive in head first – buy chicks without having a coop or anything else ready, and buy a whole assortment of crazy, exotic kinds. BUT, after much thought and with much restraint, I have restricted myself to three breeds: Buff Orpingtons, Ameraucanas (not to be confused with Araucanas), and Cuckoo Marans. I will now introduce you to the breeds and to my babies.

Buff Orpingtons

Orpingtons originated in England in the 1880s. They were originally developed as a good dual-purpose breed, which means they are good for both eggs and meat, and the original color was black. In the 1890s, a buff (gold-colored) strain was developed and it is now the most popular color of this breed. They are a popular breed for home flocks because of their mild dispositions and excellent mothering and foraging abilities. They also are very cold-hardy and will continue to lay through the winter. Their color is generally a true, metallic gold and is quite striking.

I have decided to go with all heavy breeds for now – no banties. I am in the mood for some calm, friendly pets that are easy to handle. Bantams are by nature flightier and more independent – maybe I’ll add some to the flock next year. Anyway, I chose them because I love the buff color and the large, fluffy look of the Orpingtons. I believe that I have four Buffs up in my brooder at the moment. I ordered them all as pullets and there was a total of 9 delivered, but the sexing is only about 90% accurate, so there’s a good chance one will be a rooster. I gave five of them to the woman who split my order with me. We shall see as they grow. When I say that I “believe” that I have four, it is because there are two more yellow, fluffy chicks in the brooder, but I believe one is an Ameraucana, and I believe the other is my mysterious “free rare breed chick” which McMurray Hatchery provides with each order of 25 chicks if you want it (of course, I did).

I had trouble getting decent pictures of the babies as the light was not great and I had to hold them in my hand to get a good angle.

Buff Orpington chick - all four look pretty much identical at this point.

The babies are already starting to show their personalities, and the Buff chicks are my middle-of-the-road chicks. They are perky and happily run around the brooder, eating and drinking, but they aren’t very aggressive. They will hop a bit on the meeker Maran chicks sometimes. When I pick them up, they seem fairly contented to sit in my hand.

Ameraucanas

The breed that is called “Ameraucana” is a new breed that has only recently been recognized at some shows. This is because it is generally considered a “mongrel” cross between a true Araucana and some other undiscolsed breeds. Like the Araucanas, they generally lay blue or green eggs… but because of the uncertain lineages, they can also lay pink, white, cream, brown, olive, or even gold-colored eggs. They are often called “Easter Eggers” because of this. A true Araucana is a different thing – it is the original breed discovered in South America in the 1930s. They are very distinctive because they are missing their last vertebra and thus do not have tails, which makes them quite odd-looking. They also lay strictly blue/green eggs – no other colors. They are an extremely rare breed and are almost impossible to find from anywhere but small, specialist hobby-breeders. Most hatcheries that market “Araucanas” are actually selling Ester Eggers or Ameraucanas. If you are not looking to show birds (which I am not), then Ameraucanas/Easter Eggers are a great breed to have.

This breed is much like their eggs – they come in all colors. Anything from solid black or white to multicolors, stripes, lacing…. anything. As Forrest Gump said… “You never know what you’re gonna get.” I think that’s half the fun.

Speaking of fun, the Ameraucana personality is general described as “fun” and “comical.” This part I have seen already. These are definitely the clowns of the brooder. There is one we currently call “the big scary one” because it is way bigger than the rest of the chicks and has bold black eyeliner and a mean look on its face. This chick spends about 99.9% of its time standing on the heads of other chicks with its feet shoved in one or more holes of the feeders and eating constantly. Periodically it hops down and dashes at top speed across the brooder to the waterers, takes a gulp or two, and then high-tails it back to the feeder, climbing back atop its nearest comrades. Feeding is serious business for this baby. There is another one that we call “the cool-looking one” because its coloring is very different from all the chicks. This one likes to play games. It will pick up a piece of bedding or gro-gel (a supplement they get for their first 24 hours) and walk up to another chick and taunt it with its newly-acquired toy and then dash away in hopes of a game of chase. It often gets its way and it is endlessly entertaining to watch.

The other part of the Ameraucana personality is that they are supposed to be “calm and friendly.” I have to say, this part I do not see yet. These were the last of the chicks to finally settle down for a nap – probably five hours after all the others – and they are by far the most active and likely to bully the other chicks. They also have no interest in being picked up at this point – they peep at the top of their lungs like I’m torturing them, try to constantly jump out of my hands, and every single time I’ve picked one up it’s pooped on me. This is something I’ll have to work on.

I ordered 9 Ameraucanas and I believe only 8 were shipped (they sent me an extra Buff and an extra Maran to make up for it). I ordered all pullets and gave three to the lady with whom I split the order, so I have five left.

Although they all do look a bit different, I had a very hard time holding them for pictures. This is the best I could do.

This is what three of my five Ameraucanas look like, coloring-wise, but they are all disinct. Unlike with the Buffs, I can tell them all apart already.

There is also a buff-colored chick that I think it an Ameraucana because it has slightly puffy cheeks (characteristic of the breed) and darker gold bars down its back, unlike the Orpingtons.

Buff-colored Ameraucana chick

The fifth Ameraucana is The Cool-Looking One that likes to play games. It is a dark, chocolate brown with a black saddle and head.

The Cool-Looking One

I also tried to get a picture of the Big Scary One, but it protested by far the most, so the shot is blurry.

The Big Scary One

Cuckoo Marans

My third breed is the Cuckoo Maran, which is an old French breed that is nicknamed the “chocolate egger” because it is a good layer of dark brown/terracotta-colored eggs. I thought that was too cool to pass up. Cuckoo is actually the name of the color, and Marans come in several different colors. “Cuckoo” is what Americans would call “barred,” like a Barred Rock. They have small black and white striping over their entire bodies.

Marans are also supposed to be calm, friendly birds that tend to be at the bottom of the pecking order. This has proven true so far as well. They tend to be the meekest in my brooder, getting pecked and walked-on, and they are also the smallest. The chicks are all characterized by light, cream-colored patched on the tops of their heads and some have them elsewhere on the body as well. Otherwise they are solid black. These babies are also happy to be picked up and held and the like to take frequent naps.

I ordered 8 and got 9 delivered. I gave two to the lady and so I have seven left. For some reason, the Marans were only available as straight-run, which means not sexed. So, theoretically, half of them are boys. We will not be able to tell until they are a few weeks old. Once they are old enough to be distinguished, I found a man who is interested in all the boys that I don’t want to keep. This is good news because we don’t need more than one or two roosters at the house and there’s a chance that one or two of the others are roosters as well (statistically).

Marans chick - all seven that I have look very similar, but I'm starting to be able to tell them apart.

Mystery Chick

Lastly we have our “free rare chick” that McMurray offers with each order of 25 or more chicks. I couldn’t pass that up. It is the hatchery’s choice of sex and breed and they do not tell you what you are getting. So, we’ll just have to wait and see. I believe mine is one that looks much like the Buff Orpington chicks, but is smaller and lighter, more silvery yellow than their gold color. I’ll keep you posted on my guesses as to what it is. I tried to look around online for chicks that looked like that but it was too hard to tell at this point. If it turns out to be a girl (unlikely, since hatcheries are generally overflowing with boys) and it keeps its current coloring, I will name it Sylvia.

Mystery Chick

Ok, that’s it for now. I am planning to pick out a couple of chicks to photograph once a day so that we can keep track of their growth and then maybe I’ll put up a post with all the pics in order so we can really see the progression. Yay babies!

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