This weekend we ushered in the first day of spring.
Ahhhhh, spring. There's just something about it that puts a smile on my face. In the world of our little farm - even this urban farm - it means flowers and herbs poking their heads out of the ground, finches and cardinals visiting the bird feeders, the blooming of the Bradford pear tree, and ground being cultivated and readied for vegetable seeds.
And for the last three years in a row, spring at Victoria Hill Farm has brought something else. Baby chicks, or peepies, as the old farmers around here call them. We don't breed our chickens, we raise them as layers. But we do buy new ones every year, and the old ones - so far - have been retired to country farms to live out their days.
This year, we decided to do something different. We are going to try and raise bantam chickens. For you non-chicken people out there, bantams are basically miniature chickens. They look much the same as their larger counterparts, but they are much smaller and lay very small eggs.
So why do we want to raise chickens that will only give very small eggs? In a nutshell - Hubby saw some at a livestock auction several weeks ago and fell in love with them. We didn't buy any from the auction because the age, gender, health and breed are not guaranteed and sometimes not even offered. Thus far, we have always gotten our peepies straight from a hatchery or from feed stores that buy straight from a hatchery.
This year we got these bantams from a store. We bought ten of them and may go back and buy six more next week. We are purposely buying more than we need because bantams are apparently only sold in straight runs, and we really wanted all pullets. Again for you non-chicken people, "straight run" means the chickens haven't been sexed (or had their gender determined.)
We don't have any roosters right now, and because we live in the city we will never want more than one, if that. Since these are a straight run, odds are that many of them will be roosters. Which means we will probably have to sell or give away some of the louder cockerels. A "cockerel," by the way is a young rooster, and a pullet is a young hen. A hen does not need a rooster to make an egg. The rooster is only good for fertilizing the egg and helping to fight off predators.
Baby chicks need a water bottle, a feeder, something - like shavings - under their feet, and a heat lamp. They must be kept warm! So far, we have never had a casualty (except a couple that didn't even make it through being shipped to our house last year).
Look carefully at the photo below and you can see one of the peepies actually in the feeder. Don't worry, he can get out easily!
Sorry this video didn't turn out quite as well as I had hoped, but don't you just love hearing all the little peeping?