Monday, October 29, 2012

Happy One Month Baby (not so baby) Chicks!

As a special birthday treat, the chicks got their first taste of non-chicken feed. I cut up some beet greens we weren't using and placed them in the brooder. As you can see from the pic below, the sight of alien food terrified them! (Or maybe that was because Eddy was standing next to me...). In any event, they curiously and slowly started peeking at the greens, but mostly just scoffed at them and fake sneezed. Just when I was about to think creatively about sneaking veggies into their diet (insert google searches about feeding children veggies), I returned to find the bowl empty. Birthday success!

Friday, October 19, 2012

More bad news for the Dodgers 2012 Season

There are not any baby Dodger chickens living in Silver Lake, or at least on our corner of Manzanita street (no wonder their season ended so badly). That's right, we do NOT have a Blue Ameraucana.  How did this come to be?

Yesterday I decided that my chicks had grown enough feathers, and were starting to grow their weird head pieces, that some person well versed in chicken knowledge should be able to discern their breed.   As I discussed before, this was no easy task for the novice lay person for three reasons:  (1) I didn't know whether I received a Black Cooper Maran or a Blue Splash Maran; (2) Easter Eggers, because they are a hybrid, can look like any chicken; and (3) Blue Ameraucana's can be blue, black or splashy white.  So after applying some logic and reasoning that I haven't used since taking the LSAT, I determined that the black bird had to be my barred Plymouth Rock (confirmed), and the all yellow/now white feathered bird (the blond bitch) had to be a Blue Splash Maran (confirmed).  But the other chicks didn't add up, especially because both were supposed to have slate colored feet and only one did.   

So, like any 21st century urban chicken owner would do, I emailed the online website that shipped my the chickens,  This morning I received the following response: 

FINALLY!  A "guess that breed" email that is easy!! (I had one where the lady had ordered 30 chicks from 3 different assortments, and sent pictures in before the chicks had any feathers!  I almost lost my marbles trying to guess them all!)

Anyway, here are my best guesses for your pretty little babies:
Rare Marans--(Blue Splash)
NOT a Blue Ameraucana--  Suspected Ancona==> Requesting RefundEaster Egger
Barred Plymouth Rock

I am sorry, you didn't get your Blue Ameraucana!  I checked the packing slip, and it shows the hatchery (thought they) sent a Blue Ameraucana...but it happens sometimes that the chicks jump in and out of the boxes and brooders.    Sneaky chickens.

I have noted the mistake in your order and requested a refund for the missing chick. Normally, you would see your refund in 7 to 10 business days.

My heart sank.  No Dodger blue eggs? Duchess, named after the Duke, will grow up so confused.  Even worse? Ancona's are WHITE EGG layers! She would have been immediately eliminated based on my calculating criteria for picking breeds.

There are some positives, though.  First, Ancona's are prolific egg layers, extremely efficient with their large eggs, and are early to start laying (as early as 20 weeks).  Second, mypetchicken is issuing a refund, which makes this a FREE chicken. (As they should, the blue ameraucana was $19, as opposed to the $2-4 price tag the other chicks touted, and is extremely hard to find).  Adding the first two points together, this chick is more bang for your buck.  I will need this point to convince Dan, the second cheapest guy I know (sorry Dad), that this chicken is still worthwhile even though she is no longer a Dodger. 

But the final positive is most important.  This chick "jump[ed] in and out of the boxes and brooders."  She is independent and makes her own adventure.  I can identify with that spirit, as can my best canine friend that lives with us.  And I believe that is exactly what she did.  As per my last post, she is the goofiest, craziest, was the first to fly, is the chick that sits on top of the feeder, and has so far been my favorite.  She wants to be here. Sneaky chicken...

And now all hope rests on the Easter Egger.  She will lay brown, pink, white, green, or blue.  Fingers crossed that we will get some color in our baskets of eggs!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Where Fuzz meets Feathers

If there was ever incentive to build the chicken coop, the chicks gave me sufficient reasons this week.  It is their way of telling me they are ready to move out of the house and onto their independent lives.  (Is this what it feels like when children leave for college?) As the chicks are going through their awkward stage of patches of feathers and fur, their little fuzz is floating all over the office.  They are also ambitious aviators now, and I often find them perched on top of the feeder or waterer (see pic below).  Biggest reason it is time for them to move outside? They are pooping everywhere, including on top of their waterer (more evidence of their flight), and even on my desk during socialization time (gross!).  They are chirping louder and more often, and are growing up so fast! (I wonder if my clients and colleagues on conference calls can here the chirping in the background...).  Anyway, it is time for the ladies to move outside, which means:  Chicken Coop building this weekend!

Here are their two-week old pics:

Duchess is starting to looks like a leopard!

Black Bird - once so exotic, now a pooping, patchy monster

This is my most adventurous, and also the poop culprit.  Her feathers make me think that maybe she is the Blue Splash Maran (Don't worry, I have an email out to to identify the chicks. Yes, they probably think I'm nuts.)

See her on top of the feeder!

And this is what she left me on the waterer!

The Blonde bitch is almost all white with feathers.  It looks like she will be gorgeous, but she is the most disgusting-looking right now!

Hey there cutie!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Happy 1 Week Old Baby Chicks!

What a difference a week makes! I left the chicks on Friday morning with their favorite Aunt Erika, and came home on Monday night to 4 awkward tweens.  Tails have arrived, feather details are coming in, chirps are getting louder, and the chicks seem to think that they can fly now... It is pretty hilarious watching them flap their wings.  Check out how big they haven't gotten:

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Introducing the Chicks....

Day 1 Headshots.

Easter Egger or Ameraucana (we can't tell yet!):

Blue Splash Maran:

Easter Egger or Ameraucana:

Barred Plymouth Rock:

October is for baby chickens

October 1st - HATCH DAY.  That's right, all four chicks were born this day.  That meant anytime between October 2 through October 4 they would be arriving in Silver Lake! So on October 2, I woke up early too fire up the brooder lamp and warm up their brooder box.  Baby chicks need a temperature of about 95 degrees, and after a stressful journey I wanted them to feel cozy and safe.  I had already set up their box and their food and water about a week earlier (can you tell I was excited?).

Thankfully, my efforts paid off.  According to the USPS tracker, my chickens landed at LAX around 10:30 a.m. and departed the distribution center! They were coming that day!

Around 1:30 p.m.  I got a call from a rather disgruntled postman who had tried to deliver the chicks but no one was home.  After assuring him not to worry, that I would be there in 10 minutes, my sister and I hopped in the MINI and drove straight to the Loz Feliz post office.  I think I was expecting a special  "live animals" window, but Sherry and I  obediently filed in the normal line of people picking up non-living things.  Everyone else had parcel slips, but I simply said "I'm here for the chickens."  He knew exactly who I was, and exactly where my parcel was.  Sherry and I stood eagerly by while trying to ignore the looks people were giving the strange girl who was picking up chickens in Los Feliz.  (I fully acknowledge that I was the crazy in the post office that day).

Suddenly the postman came back with this tiny box, and from it, tiny chirping noises.  It was hands down the sweetest noise I have ever heard.

We loaded up the MINI with this tiny box and waited until we got home to open it - 6 tortuously long minutes!  We didn't want one to hop out and get lost in MINI. 

But we did sneak a little peek and saw one little black ball of fur! 

I had been mentally preparing for a dead baby chick.  Sometimes they die during shipment, and I didn't want to be too disappointed.  So you can understand my nerves in opening the box.  But when I opened it, we saw these four fluffy and healthy beings! 

They had a long journey, and were likely very thirsty and hungry, so we wanted to transfer them to their new home as fast as possible.  We showed each one how to eat and drink by dipping their beaks in the food and water, and they seemed right at home!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Picking the Hippest Chickens and Playing Chicken Roulette

I usually do things backwards.  I commit to a goal, and then figure out how to make it happen.  So in deciding what chickens were going to become a part of our little clan, I started first with what breeds I wanted.  (Whether I could find those exact breeds in LA that were all available and born at the same time would come later). 

As an initial matter, I was only after baby chicks.  I liked the idea of getting to know the chickens while they got to know me, and the idea of nurturing little fuzz balls from day-old babies to old hens.  I wanted to experience the process from start to . . . lets not talk about the latter part. I also figured that if these babies knew me from day one, then maybe they would be a bit nicer/tamer when they grew up!

So I started with Chapter 3 in my trusty "Chicken in Every Yard" book, a mug of coffee, and a hour train ride to visit my sister in San Clemente. Every breed sounded like the holy grail :  "your most petlike bird," "easily tamed," "low maintenance," "most quiet hens around," "a real team player," "true American breed," "docile yet regal," and, my favorite, "these hens will eagerly tag along with you in the yard."  I decided to rank my priorities. 

First, an eclectic array of colorful eggs.  Really, what is the joy of having backyard chickens if not to have a basket full of colorful eggs?!  Besides, this way I can keep of track of each hen's laying schedule (nerd, I know).  White egg layers were out of the question.  Light brown egg layers really needed to bring something else to the table if they wanted to keep their name in the pot.  Blue and green egg layers were the blue chip players in this draft. 

(As a sub-category, I also eliminated chicks that had a low-egg laying average.  I can't stand laziness, in my pets or otherwise.) 

Second, personality.  I was drawn towards any breed that was "good for beginners" or, better yet, "good for kids."  Because really, I'm a kid, when it comes to chickens and otherwise, and because I am such a chicken newbie.  I also really, really like the idea of chickens sitting on my lap or following me around the yard. 

Third is a mixed bag of what I like to call "the hip factor."  After all, these are Silver Lake chicks, and Silver Lake is ranked the hippest neighborhood in America (see Traits falling in this category will be things I brag about after I addressed the first two categories.  For example, stylish coloring or being a heritage breed.

Finally, if a breed generally does not do well in confinement but prefers an open yard, they were immediately eliminated.  Have you met the bird pointer dog(/monster) that lives with us?  These chicks are going to remain safely in an enclosed area, and need to be able to tolerate confinement.

After carefully (albeit obsessively) considering each breed, I decided there were two breeds I HAD to have:  (1) Ameraucana  - blue/green egg layers (green eggs and ham?) with a "sweet personality" that will "likely become a favorite of adults and children alike", and a (2) Plymouth Rock  - described as a "team player" (they had me at this), "great layers and fast to mature" (see previous comment re laziness, and yeah, I'm competitive), and known for "lively unbeatable backyard antics."  Plus this breed gets extra hip points for being black and white "zebra chickens" and an "America original" that was once a "threatened" but is now a "recovering" breed - (hipsters love a good cause!).  For these reasons, I can tolerate that it lays medium-brown eggs. 

Two breeds selected, done and done.  Right?  Well..... it turns out there is not a wide variety of baby chick suppliers in Los Angeles.  There are some, but the variety leaves much to be desired.  I was adamantly against ordering chickens via mail because the thought of sending day-old-chicks with the postman was just too cruel to bare.  And almost all suppliers require a minimum of 25 chickens (yeah, Dan didn't go for that one).  But then I discovered, a magical online store that carries a whole range of chickens and will ship a minimum of three chickens in insulated boxes that include a "high-tech, long-lasting heating element."  YAY! This means I get the chickens I want and they will be cozy during their journey.  I just had to convince Dan that 3 chickens was a good idea, and we were off! The winning argument:  if one chicken dies in transit, the other will need a friend! It worked.

For my third breed I selected a Rare Maran.  Marans are dark chocolate to cooper egg layers (priority 1), get fat when they grow up (awesome), are originally from France and known for their great looks (priority 3), and lets be honest, who doesn't love anything "rare."  This chick will either be a Black Cooper Maran or a Blue Splash Maran, but I won't know until it arrives - it is like playing Chicken Roulette!

I also had to substitute the Ameraucana for an "Easter Egger," which are hybrids that carry the blue egg gene of Ameraucanas but can lay a blue, green, pink, white (rare - I would be so pissed!), or creamy brown eggs.  I won't know what color this chick will lay until her first egg . (Sidenote - each chick only lays only color her whole life).  Another round of Chicken Roulette!  These chickens are pretty UGLY (at least acccording to their online dating profile), but I NEEDED a blue/green laying chicken, and Ameraucanas were not offered. 

Three chickens were ordered, to be delivered on October first, done and done. Right? (Poor Dan).  About two weeks before the chicks were supposed to arrive, I was perusing (yup, nerd again), and I saw that they JUST got some BLUE AMERAUCANAS in!!!! These are blue birds, that lay blue eggs, which gave me the perfect grounds to sell Dan on the fourth chicken.  The winning argument - a DODGER chicken! It worked, and I immediately called and added this chick to my order (the last Ameraucana that would be hatching that day - it was meant to be). 

SO the final count (which went from 1-2 to 4):
(1) Blue Ameraucana
(2) Easter Egger
(3) Barred Plymouth Rock
(4) Rare Maran (specific breed tbd)


Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Welcome to my urban chicken raising adventure!

"So do you live in some rural part of Los Angeles" is usually the first question I get when I tell people that I have decided to raise chickens in my backyard.  (I don't, I live in Silver Lake).  I also get questions about the size of my yard (small), whether raising chickens is legal in Los Angeles (it is, see:, whether I have any experience raising chickens (I've never even touched one), and, most commonly, "why do you want chickens?"  This last question is almost always accompanied by a "chickens are really smelly" comment.  Nonetheless, it is a fair question.

I was introduced to the idea of backyard chickens by an uber-hip friend who raised chickens first in the mission district of San Francisco and now in Oakland.  (This fact single-handedly won my support for him dating my dear college roommate - though many reasons followed, obviously).  At the time, I lived in a small apartment sans yard, and then in a bigger apartment with a yard but also with an evil and controlling landlord who tried to get my dog put down, so chickens were out of the question.  But life circumstances brought Dan and myself to Los Angeles where we became proud owners of a small, 100 year-old bungalow in Silver Lake, with a small yard and no landlords!  Shortly after we moved in, we visited my oldest sister who was working on an organic farm in San Diego county, complete with fruit trees, gardens, goats, and (you guessed it) chickens!

I was intrigued the moment I saw the chicken coop guarded from coyotes by two llamas.  I was sold the moment I tasted my first farm fresh egg.  I was never turning back the moment I learned how healthy farm fresh eggs are, and how wonderful chickens can be as pets.

So I raced home (ok, after a stop at Stone Brewery - yum), and immediately order "A Chicken In Every Yard:  The Urban Farm Store's Guide to Chicken Keeping."  I highly recommend this book for anyone starting out.  I knew absolutely nothing about chickens (I wasn't even sure whether you need a rooster to promote laying - you don't), and by the end of this book, I felt confidant and equipped to raise my own flock.

Step 1 -  convince my amazingly supportive boyfriend that we should get chickens.  This wasn't too hard - Dan is used to my crazy.  I once sent him a picture of a puppy that I just rescued from a gypsy, hippy bus, and 3 and a half years later Eddy is an irreplaceable member of our pack  . . .  (despite Dan's allergies to dogs).

Step 2 - order my chickens . . .  (post to follow)

So this is my story of raising hip chicks in Silver Lake.  Not that this is an original story.  It turns out urban backyard chickens is trending right now.  I even found (and joined) a meetup group of others in the greater Los Angeles area raising chickens (LA Urban Chicken Enthusiasts - if you are interested).  I'm not pretending that this blog will offer a novel perspective, or that I'm the next Julie of Julie & Julia.  What this blog will offer is a space for my friends and family to direct my obsessive debates of medicated v. organic starter feed, 2 v. 3 hens, pine shavings v. newspaper, and other endless chicken keeping debates.  And, hopefully, this will keep me from posting endless pictures and comments of my "babies" on Facebook (so not appropriate).  And so it begins . . . !