The chicks are 5 1/2 weeks old now, all fourteen of ’em. They are in the ugly kind of stage, in which they are still growing in their head and neck feathers, so look rather gangly. And yet, there are all sorts of beautiful feather colours coming through on their bodies. The Sookie babies are particularly interesting. While they all started off with brownish fluff, they are all now different colours. Because they’re crossbreds their lacing is highly irregular, but loosely, one is gold with blue lacing, one is gold with black lacing and one is silver with black lacing. All the half-Wyandottes have the Wyandotte rose comb. Of the Lorelai babies, one is blue (so far) and the other three are a very similar-looking black with little bits of gold on the edges of some of their wing feathers. That leaves the purebred Australorps, which are black (3), blue (2) and splash (1).
Now we get to the question of who is a girl and who is a boy? Aka, the game of Hen or Roo? Following along with my wing and tail feather theory, which is easiest to tell when they’re around 10 days old, I think I have an even split: seven girls and seven boys. The funny thing is, all the purebred Australorps appear to be girls, all the Lorelai babies appear to be boys and only one of the Sookie babies appears to be a girl, meaning two of them are boys. So much for selling some pretty crossbreds! However, I’m not entirely sure about two of the blackish Lorelai chicks. Lorelai was slow to feather up as a pullet and I thought she was a boy for a while, so I’m keeping that in mind. If my initial guesses hold true, I will likely keep all the girls since my numbers are so skint thanks to The Egg-eating Scandal. This also means I STILL won’t have a purebred Australorp roo. However, in the long run this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as I need a roo unrelated to the hens for good genetics. Five of the Australorp ‘girls’ are from the same source and the other one is Orphan Annie, who is doing very well after a touch-and-go start to life. I may just have to wait until I can hatch another lot of eggs from a different source before I can get my roo.
The Lorelai-Mr Bingley chicks
The Sookie-Mr Bingley chicks
The Australorp source #1 (posted) chick
The Australorp source #2 chicks
Now, we get to the little cockerels. And the fact that Mr Bingley was farewelled this week. I already needed new genetics, and Mr Bingley’s involvement, to whatever extent, in The Egg-eating Scandal sealed his fate. I’ve been trying not to think about it too much, as it was very hard to have Mr Bingley walk the green mile. He was a good boy, at least until all that egg-eating business. He never attacked me, The Little Fulla or anyone else. He ate from my hand. He didn’t thrash around once he was in my arms. He looked after his ladies and was very gentle and helpful with all the chicks. He was very fertile and gave me some lovely hens. He restored my faith in roosters. He was beautiful.
The first morning without Mr Bingley, I was feeling weird because there was no crowing. Then, as I got the chickens’ food ready before I let them out, I heard a little crow. The uninitiated wouldn’t even recognise this squeaky, gurgly noise as a crow, but there it was again. One of the little cockerels, at a mere five weeks old, was trying to be the man of the flock. I thought the nutheaded Mr Collins was very young when he started crowing at seven weeks of age, but five weeks really is a record! Of course, the crowing stopped as soon as I opened the coop and I haven’t heard it since, so I don’t know who it was. My best guess is Silver, the silver laced-ish Sookie boy. He has always been one of the biggest chicks, with huge legs and the biggest comb and wattles. He seems very aware of things going on as well. My second guess would be the big, blackish Lorelai boy, who also has a big comb and wattles.
I am enjoying watching how all the chicks are developing. I wasn’t going to handle the boys as much, since handling 14 chicks is a lot, but I am trying to handle them all equally since 1) I cannot be 100% sure if all the ‘boys’ are boys yet and 2) now that I haven’t got a rooster I might end up keeping one of them, even if it’s just for the short term. I don’t have to have a rooster, but I do like having one, and if one of the little boys wins me over I could very easily be swayed. It’s still early days, so time will tell what happens.
Edit: I don’t know if anyone realised, but I initially only put up photos of 13 chicks. Oops! I temporarily forgot that there are four of those black Lorelai chicks with little bits of brown. They look quite similar, but I’ve got them all pinned down now. Well, for now…