Hit the Ground Running

What better way to start a project than to jump right in, right? That’s why I finally made some decisions about breeds, committed to a three hour drive north, and got some chicks. Five to be exact. With the chicks, I couldn’t delay the coop anymore. These little guys would be the fuel behind me every day, reminding me to working on the coop little by little. No more avoidance issues, this is finally real.

I had miraculously gotten two days in a row off from work, so that meant it was time to accomplish some real work on my chicken project. I was planning to meet up with a man named Scott who had some breeds I was interested in. We set up a time and and I got the address over text, but then things got a bit strange. I mentioned that I was going to another farm and he asked “why are you visiting another farm?”. His price was also $15/chick, even for common breeds, when I’ve seen them priced under $3 per chick elsewhere. When I asked why the price was so high, instead of answering me, he simply responded “I’m busy tomorrow. Thanks bye”.

So that’s a solid no. Not sure I’d want to go somewhere where they question me visiting other places. Look Scott, this isn’t a relationship, it’s a chicken selling deal.

I scrounged the internet for more options. I already had an appointment in Lompoc the next day to see chicks and wanted to settle the chick business in one day. I sent a message to a hatchery in Templeton, about three hours north of me, and she quickly responded despite the late hour, and we set up a time to meet.

It was settled, the next day I’d be getting chicks! I was so excited, but that didn’t stop me from passing out easily after a long day at work.

That morning I headed north. I hadn’t made this drive for about two years when I used to go to University at Cal Poly in SLO. Familiar rolling hills of oaks and vineyards passed me by as I listened to NPR and practiced my French by Podcast. Those three house really flew by and soon I found myself rolling up the driveway to Nat’s farm where she greeted me. I stepped inside her house where she was keeping the chicks and she introduced me to the babies. There was several breeds and crosses as she was trying to breed for friendly personality traits based on parentage. It was amazing! She knew exactly who all the parents were.

What was most fascinating was when I got to see all of the parents themselves at the barn. Dozens of turkeys surrounded us, making the funniest chirping noise. You would never expect it from a bird so large. Beautiful hens and roosters were everywhere. She showed me some of the younger hens for sale as well as the parents of the chicks indoors.

In the end I decided on two chicks from Nat. It was a bit of a gamble with her because the chicks wouldn’t certainly be female. We spent some time inspecting the Maran and Easter Egger crosses for females before I decided on a chipmunk looking chick and a beautiful light grey Maran.

By the time I left Nat’s farm, it was already so late that I had to just fly down the road straight to Lompoc. I would have loved to spend time in my college town, but I guess I’ll just have to go back.

I pulled up to Dare 2 Dream Farms, which I’d read all about in several articles. It’s always on the top of the search results when you google anything chick and California related. It was an adorable little farm with produce as well as chickens. I was greeted by one of the men who worked there and took me up to see the chicks. It was quite a different experience from Nat’s perfect little farm. There were tons of chicks all divided into containers based on their breed. The boxes were nearly overflowing with peeping chicks. He listed off the breeds available to which I responded with a list of the breeds I wanted. Then, in about 30 seconds, he opened each container, grabbed each chick I listed, and it was done. Over. He carried my three new babies back to the car where they joined the other two cuties in their box.

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Here they all are! Safe in their box, happy, and ready to be whisked away to their new home.

I took advantage of my time up north to visit my aunt and cousin who recently moved to Solvang. We had a nice dinner, some great wine, some great catch up, and of course a bit of fun oogling over chicks.

Finally after a long day for me and the chicks, we arrive home at about 10:30pm. My brother was the first down the stairs to greet the new babies, followed by my mom. We all absorbed their cuteness and cuddled with the little fluff balls before finally getting their brooder all set up and ready.

I tossed a layer of pine shavings in the bottom, got their food and water feeders set up, plugged in the heat lamp (which promptly died), and even cut them a little apartment out of the same box I drove them home in. We set up a backup lamp out of a bright bulb my dad uses to see when he paints. It had to be better than nothing, even though quite honestly, with all this heat, they probably don’t even need a heat lamp. The day before yesterday it was over 100F (38C). Anyway, I didn’t want to risk having cold chicks so I set the obnoxiously bright light in their brooding cage anyways.

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Chicks all set up and happy, everyone (especially me) was ready for bed.

So with a drum roll, please, I present to you my miniature flock of fluff balls:

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This is Chipmunk. First to be named! I swear she looks just like a little chipmunk with her perchipmunkfect chestnut brown stripe and little black eye stripe. I’ll have to get a better photo of her soon.

Breed: Easter Egger/Phoenix Cross

Eggs: Green/Blue (but other colors like pink, brown, and white are also possible)

From: Fantasy Farms Paso

Age: 4 days old (9/23/16)

Because she is a cross, I can’t be certain what she’ll look like as an adult but I’m really excited to see how she grows and changes! Her Phoenix father has gorgeous long tail feathers and all phoenixes have really interesting feather patterns. Easter Eggers are a breed derived from the Ameraucana chicken, well known for its green/blue eggs. They are a rarer breed native to South America.

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Breed: Maran

Eggs: Chocolate Brown

From: Fantasy Farms Paso

Age: 4 days (9/23/16)

This is (potentially) Lavender. It’s not really that creative of a name since she’s called a Lavender Maran, but I think the name is just too adorable. Lavender Marans are a breed native to France. Their deep brown egg coloring comes from the egg passing through the chicken’s oviduct. As it passes through, it is covered with a dark brown layer that then dries onto the outside of the egg.

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Breed: Australorop

Eggs: Brown

From: Dare 2 Dream Farms, Lompoc

Age: ? <2 weeks

This is a black Australorp, the Australian version of the Orpington. They are known for being excellent layers (I believe an Australorp holds the record for egg laying). They only come in one official color: black. I chose this breed for their egg laying excellence, calm and curious personalities, and adorable puffy butts.

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Breed: Wyandotte

Eggs: Brown

From: Dare 2 Dream Farms, Lompoc

Age: ? ~1 week

This is a Golden Laced Wyandotte. I chose this breed because of how incredibly gorgeous they turn as adults, 3cd4f6a0_goldenlacedwyandotte.jpeggood egg laying rate, and affectionate personalities. The Wyandotte is an American breed of chicken. They come in a beautiful Blue Laced variety which is hard to find, so I went for the gold laced instead.

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Breed: Easter Egger

Eggs: Multiple possible

From: Dare 2 Dream Farms, Lompoc

Age: ? <2 weeks

This is an Easter Egger and doesn’t she have awesome feathering? I can’t wait to see how she turns out. She’s definitely the biggest of the bunch, but she’s fitting in fine. Easter Eggers are interesting because they can lay many different colors of eggs. Basically any color that exists. Typically, once they start laying, they’ll only lay one egg color their whole life, but I’ve heard of Easter Eggers that constantly lay a different color egg. I’ll have to let you all know what happens.

Now that I have the chicks, I need to spend lots of time with them. I want them to be tame, loving, and friendly chickens, used to human touch, so I’m making it a point every day of holding each chick, talking to it, and encouraging it to be comfortable around me with some food.

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The morning after I got the chicks, I went down to check on them and as I approached the cage I said “Chikies!”…to which they all promptly scurried into their apartment away from me.

It’s a work in progress though, and I’m really hoping they warm up to me. I have to tell myself to have patience and to above all be persistent!

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Starting From Scratch

I’ve never built anything. The last time I picked up a hammer and nail with the purpose of building something that would be solely my own, was when I was 7. Yes, 7. IKEA furniture doesn’t count. Hanging shelves certainly doesn’t. So, no. I’ve never built anything.

I started with research, the kind that turns your screen into a disorganized file cabinet with so many tabs open, that you can’t remember what they all are anymore, and periodically click through them all to remind yourself. It’s like a bread crumb of your trail of thoughts. Fascinating actually, since you’re able to see all this clear evidence of where your head has been skipping around for the last two hours.

I researched coop styles, how to build a coop, the best materials to use. Then I moved onto the chickens themselves. What kinds of chickens are friendliest? Which lay colorful eggs? Where can I get them?

Hours and hours later, I’ve almost made up my mind about what kind of chickens to buy. I’ve basically decided what kind of coop to build. Yet…still nothing solid. If you know me, you know that decisions are not my strong suit. I never know what I want, or if what I want is right, or if its also best for everyone else involved…decisions man. They are the worst.

Meanwhile on the construction front, I’m already facing some intimidating problems, like, can I modify these plans and move the door over here without compromising structural integrity? How do I make sure it doesn’t leak in the rain? How do I make it ventilated enough? How do I use one of those small handheld electric saws? What are those even called? Am I supposed to use screws or nails? A full nest box full of questions that many people with even limited construction knowledge could probably answer.

So what do you do when you have questions about construction? Naturally, you turn to your dad, right? I started with my first question…can I move the door do a different side? I was prepared for a long, strange answer. What I was not prepared for was the angry lecture about building things, and having a strong plan, a string of mostly unrelated questions, a history lesson on my dad’s life and chickens, and so much more. In case you were wondering, my question wasn’t answered.

Okay. Moving forward. I’ll get there. I’m planning to speak to the husband of my mom’s friend who built a chicken coop for their home. I actually visited it today and it’s more of a mansion than a coop; a beautiful feat of chicken abode construction.

For now, I’m finalizing my breed choices and, most importantly, working up the courage to get to the hardware store and finally begin getting the tools I’ll need. Starting is always the hardest part……..right? RIGHT?!

Wish me good cluck! (See what I did there?)

Much love.