We went off on a chicken hunt yesterday. The first place was quite hideous. This couple had a property set back from the road with a ramshackle small barn, an outdoor pen for goats and sheep, and a variety of pieced together chicken coops. The conditions were very crowded, poorly maintained, dirty, and practically all of the birds were missing many feathers. The woman said she had far too many roosters who were very hard on the birds and that she had gotten rid of most of her roosters a little while ago. There was no way on earth I was going to buy any of her birds. She needs to take better care of her very large flock. There were also geese and turkeys, and a handful of cats.
I was disappointed, but husband asked if there was anyone else I had been in communication with, and there was one about 40 minutes in the opposite direction. I emailed him on my cell phone and off we went. This was a fairly young guy who had a smaller amount of birds. He knew the history of his birds, could name some of the varieties, had built nice shelters for them, and many of the birds were free ranging out on the grass. Much better. The rain started to come down and I got soaked standing outside, deciding which ones to take. He was also very good to say that he wasn't totally sure if some of them were hens (or roosters), so we avoided those. I ended up buying four young birds from him. Two of them are about three months old, and two are between three and half to four months old. I still have probably three more months to wait until they begin laying eggs. This really wasn't my intention, but they were healthy looking birds that he clearly looked after.
Here are some pictures of the new girls.
The light "buff" coloured one, and the one at the back of this picture, closest to the wall, are the older two. They are thankfully not too bossy of the younger two.
The one closest is one of the younger ones. She is going to be very pretty with her black and brown feathers.
Here is the other younger one. She is kind of bizarre looking, kind of like a vulture. She has barely any comb, black legs, and occasionally you see a hint of white feathers underneath her wings. We'll see how she develops. She is the smallest of all four, but manages pretty well.
Here are three of them clustered together ready to have a tiny, thirty second snooze. You can see the white feather poking out from the little black hen's wing.
This older brown and black girl was the only one who ate the bits of lettuce I gave them. She is the biggest of all four and will be a very pretty, interesting looking hen.
I spend a ridiculous amount of time sitting in the doorway of the coop, getting them used to my presence, my voice. I want them to be comfortable around people, not a bunch of scaredy cats that will be impossible to handle if need be.
We've opened the little chicken door which has the ramp to lead out into the chicken run. I even put a little food right in the doorway. So far they have pecked at the food, but are not the least bit interested in going outside. Maybe that's a good thing. I want them to think of the coop as home and a safe place so that when they do start to go out in the run, they will automatically go in the coop in the evening. Most of our chickens roosted at night with no problem at all. I want these to be the same (although they are entirely too small to jump up on the lovely roosts that husband built). For now they will be happy to nestle down on the floor in a little cluster.
In terms of what kinds of hens these are, I'm not entirely sure. The young man had some "Easter Eggers" (lay bluish eggs), some Wyandotts, Barred rocks, perhaps some orpingtons, and then mixes of those. We shall see...