My 27 chicks are two weeks old today. I am amazed at how much they've changed since I first got them. They've replaced most of their baby fuzz with their first feathers and they are getting very adept at flying. I snuck out to the coop just now to check on them as I do each night. This is how I found them--in a circle with their rumps toward their heat lamp! Silly chooks!
I've noticed some differences between the breeds. I think the smartest chicks are the five Barred Rocks. They are quick and sharp and seem to be more in tune to their instinct to forage. When I take a few chicks into the lawn for "yard time", the Barred Rocks are the quickest to set off away from me to start foraging. They are the boldest with me with the exception of one (Roo). Tonight, one of them bit my finger and I had to hold that bird for a while to reassert myself as the Alpha bird in the flock. The biting stopped after that. I can count on the Rocks to come right up to me each time I enter the coop.
The Buff Orpingtons' blond color fits their behavior. They don't start foraging for food until they see others do it. Only a few of the 13 Orpington chicks are drawn to humans, the rest stay a safe distance away. The little male Orpington is the sweetest chick of the whole flock. He loves to sit on my knee and is very calm and docile. As long as that doesn't change he'll be one of the roosters I end up keeping.
My favorites, the Black Australorps, are the most people-friendly. Only two or three of the eight Australorp chicks stay at arm's length when approached. Even the male Australorps are very friendly and tame. And everyone's favorite chick, Roseanna, is the first one to run up to meet whoever enters the coop. She gets a lot of the worms I find by being so bold. When I find a worm while gardening, I just walk over to the coop and put my hand inside. Whoever gets there first gets the worm. (The early bird gets the worm, right?) And that bird is usually Roseanna.
Another of the chicks got named today. She's a very calm and gentle Australorp and I named her Violet. It just seems to fit her personality. She's very unassuming but usually finds her way into my hand after a few minutes. As I transplanted daffodils today I had Roseanna and Violet with me. They followed me all around as I worked. Any worms I dug up went straight to them. They were wonderful company!
I think I've developed the best way to choose which birds get kept and which get eaten. The chickens that avoid us or any that become mean will be the ones we butcher. That way I don't have to worry about our favorites ending up on the butcher block. I want chickens that are calm and approachable, not timid or mean. Derek is very set on keeping his baby Roseanna and he's even fond of Roo, the big, shy Barred Rock. I told him that as long as Roo doesn't get mean, we'll keep him/her. Hopefully that little chicken will turn out to be a good laying hen. He/she will sit calmly in my palm if it's on his/her terms, but not if I try to pick him/her up.
Watching these chicks grow has certainly been very entertaining and educational. It's been a very good experience so far and I'm so glad that I haven't lost any. Chickens are really very funny! I'm really surprised at how tough these babies are too. They went out into the coop at four days old with only a 250 watt heat lamp with the night temps in the 40s and 50s and did just fine. As soon as they've got all their body feathers and the weather permits I'll remove the heat lamp for good. These babies have weight to them now and their curious pecks can really hurt! I think they've found every mole on my arms and ankles by now!