It is time for another game of Hen or Roo? The chicks are now six weeks old, almost fully-feathered and I think I was wrong about a couple of my earlier predictions. But first, a little conundrum. The Smoky Chick is a little bit of a mystery. I noticed that he/she had some light brown on his/her chest. At first I thought it was smeared poop, but no. It was not dirt either. Catching The Smoky Chick revealed that he/she has some buff colouring in his/her chest feathers. Oh dear. Whether it’s a he or she it will be no good for breeding so will inevitably have to be eaten. I mean go to the other side of the rainbow. But where did this colouring come from? Australorps don’t come in the colour buff.

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The Smoky Chick. Not so smoky after all.

Option 1: Genetic colour instability from Elrond. Elrond has some red hues in his black hackle feathers. I remember reading somewhere that this can bring out buff colouring in offspring, a throwback to Orpington stock that the Australorp was developed from. If so, I have to accept that there may be more occasional occurrences of poor colouring in future when breeding from Elrond, and be prepared to cull them. Keeping them would be a poor choice in preserving the pure breed.

Option 2: The Smoky Chick could be the lovechild of the late Sam and Elrond. This is kind of a long shot. Sam was moulting at the time, although moulting hens can lay sometimes, and all the eggs looked like lovely, smooth, light brown Frodo eggs, whereas Sam’s eggs used to be pale and often characterised by problems like thin shells. But, it is possible. Do you recall when I said there was something weird-looking about The Smoky Chick’s face? I actually started wondering about this option back then.

So, we will just have to wait and see how The Smoky Chick turns out for curiosity (and fattening) purposes. But either way, The Smoky Chick doesn’t have a bright future. I may be new to chicken breeding, and chicken keeping for that matter, but I am determined to be a responsible breeder and keep chickens that have good breed characteristics as well as good utility (eggs and/or meat production). Likewise, with regard to selling chickens I have raised, I don’t want to sell any that have major breed non-conformities or physical issues. Australorps are not particularly common as it is, and the more I read about purebreds/heritage breeds/rare breeds, the more responsibility I feel towards the cause of maintaining them. In saying that, I am not averse to people doing ‘projects’ with new colours. As long as they are restrained in passing on their project birds and focused on good breed standards as the end result, why not have some more colour interest? But I’m not ready for that yet. Not unless a chocolate Australorp suddenly becomes a possibility. Ooh, imagine that! Yesss. No. I have a weakness for chocolate animals…

Anyway, before we get totally distracted, let’s play Hen or Roo?

The Smoky Chick

We might as well start with this poor soul. The Smoky Chick has been one of the tricky ones for me, with a comb that was slow to develop then suddenly popped up, and being one of the more active, scrappy chicks. I’ve been swinging all over the place. I think The Smoky Chick might be number two in the chicks’ pecking order as he/she often has little battles with number one… Last time I voted Hen. This time I’m voting… Hen. For now.

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The Smoky Chick. There is still something weird-looking about his/her face. Is it just lighter skin colour or something else?

Blue Girl (The Chick That Looks Like Little Spot)

The great thing about temporary names is that you can keep changing them. Blue Girl is much easier to say, and she is one of the ones that I’m dead sure about. If she turns out to be a boy I’ll eat my hat. She is pretty quiet and I think is near the bottom of the pecking order. Last time I voted Hen. This time I’m voting… Hen.

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Blue Girl, left, and Blackie, right. Small combs all around here.

Little Spot

Little Spot is one of the boys I’m dead sure about. He was always the biggest, with big feet, and a pretty decent-sized comb. His face spots have all but disappeared now. I think he’s somewhere in the middle of the pecking order. Last time I voted Roo. This time I’m voting… Roo.

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Little Spot, centre.

Scrappy (The Dark Grey/Blue Chick)

Scrappy has me swinging up and down like a rollercoaster. He/she has beautiful dark lacing, which has made him/her a favourite in my eyes. Unfortunately, although Scrappy has a smallish comb, he/she has noticeable wattles now, like the other boys I’m sure about, plus a very assertive nature, so I’m afraid Scrappy may turn out to be a boy. Scrappy is the scrappiest of the chicks (can you tell?) and I’m pretty sure he/she is the alpha among them. I would love to have a blue roo, if Elrond would let him stick around or if I can set up another pen (I have started formulating chicken tractor plans), but an assertive nature isn’t helping the cause if he/she is a he. Be a she, Scrappy! Last time I voted Hen. This time I’m voting… Roo. (But I hope I’m wrong!)

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Scrappy has beautiful dark lacing. Why have you got noticaeable wattles, Scrappy? You’re supposed to be a girl…

Blackie (Bob)

Blackie is the second girl I’m dead sure about and is the other of my favourites. She is sleek and elegant-looking, with a placid nature and is somewhere down the bottom of the pecking order. I hope she turns out well because I definitely want to keep her so far. Last time I voted Hen. This time I’m voting… Hen.

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Blackie, a pretty wee girl.

Orange Feet

So, his feet aren’t really orange anymore but never mind. He’s the most definite boy in my books as he still has the biggest comb (just). He seems like a pretty decent dude so far, somewhere in the middle of the pecking order I think. Last time I voted Roo. This time I’m voting… Roo.

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Orange Feet: “I have the biggest comb in the world!”

Pie

The name may sound like a final destination but it is actually a reference to his/her very pied black and white colouring at birth. Pie’s light colouring around the face is disappearing so it’s not as easy to pick him/her out now. I thought Pie was going to be a boy due to a very alert nature from early on, but now, there isn’t much in the way of a comb. Last time I voted Roo. This time I’m voting… Hen.

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Pie: “I will not be made into a pie!”

Half Pie (Purple Face)

Ah, Half Pie. The most famous chick thanks to his minor injury-induced stint on the dining room table. He is more friendly towards me because of it and the wee chap is still finding his place back in the flock. More on that soon. The third boy I am certain about, his comb is just about as big as Orange Feet’s. Last time I voted Roo. This time I’m voting… Roo.

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Half Pie, my wee tag-a-long.

So, there we have it. After this round of Hen or Roo? I have changed my vote on two of the chicks: Scrappy and Pie. And I’m uncertain about The Smoky Chick on so many levels! Thoughts? Feel free to share them below.

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Hanging out on the things. Scrappy noticed that Pie had the highest ground on the branch, and so had to get higher.
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