Adolescence is awkward for chickens, too

The summer is speeding by and the baby chicks are growing up just as quickly. I’ve been remiss in providing regular updates, but I’m going to try a few short posts to get everyone caught up.

Adolescence is an awkward time in life, and it’s no exception for chickens. They break out, they get moody, they start hanging out with new friends….What? Oh, wait. That’s all just teenagers…

Growth spurts:

Joking aside, chickens really do look their worst around the 4-7 weeks mark. Just for comparison, our Andalusian went from this:baby Andalusian chicken

to this:

5wk old Andalusian chicken

The down feathers are falling out, the pin feathers are coming in…they really just look bedraggled. It’s a far cry from their fluffy baby cuteness. But rest assured! Like reaching puberty in teenagers, it’s just a phase and their looks will iron out eventually.

Speaking of puberty, I should note than that hormonal phase is not really analogous to what’s going on here. The chickens are really just hitting a growth spurt; they won’t begin producing eggs until  they are around 6 months old.

Loosening the apron strings:

At around 5 weeks, we began letting them outside for brief, supervised periods of exploration. We did this for around a week in an effort to work them towards a full-time existence in the coop. As time as gone on, we’ve discovered that this second batch of chickens is not as friendly and fearless as our first set of girls, and their introduction to The Great Outdoors proved no exception.

We started bringing them out one at a time so that we could keep an eye on them (and recapture them if needed) easily, but Brunhilde (aptly named for her piercing, operatic-volume chirps), kicked into Distress Mode and we eventually added a companion to quiet her down.

As you can see here, the backyard was traumatic and they spent some time hiding behind our trash can….

chickens hiding behind trash can

One unexpected surprise of their adult feathering is that the Easter Egger, the Golden Campine, and the Welsummer are surprisingly difficult to tell apart. The photos we viewed before choosing our breeds had been of the breed standards with mottled plumage, fancy combs, etc. and the reality is that we now have a bunch of brown chickens…. It was definitely tough trying to tell them apart for a few weeks, but we now think we’ve got the hang of it. In the picture above, I think we’ve got the Easter Egger (with the yellow legs) and the Welsummer. Below, just for extra bedraggle-ness fun, is the Gold Campine. Her fan-like tail is what helps us keep her straight, and we briefly toyed with the idea of naming her “Geisha”.

Eventually, we got everyone outside for a few supervised visits over the course of the week, and they seemed to handle the trauma pretty well.

5wk old Golden Campine chicken

First Day of School:

Now that they’d discovered the world outside their brooder box, it was time for the girls to begin learning how to be chickens. This meant scratching around for bugs, nipping at grass, and learning the sights and sounds of predators. After a week, of supervised outdoors visits, we graduated them to daytime residence inside the run. Sophia, our remaining “old” chicken, retained full run of the backyard, but she and the “nuggets” could safely see and get to know each other separated by the run’s hardware cloth. I’ll post more on that setup separately, but here’s the idea:

Separation inside the chicken run

That’s it for now! I’ll be back soon with posts about addressing some coop design and yard problems, plus the final decisions about their names. I might even throw my hat into the ring on the debate about hipsters allegedly abandoning their chickens. Stay tuned!